The Objects

20th Jul 1815

Source: © Victoria and Albert Museum, London, reproduced with permission.

A ‘Waterloo’ Jug

Contributed by: Neil Ramsey

In the euphoria that followed Waterloo the British government was initially enthusiastic about memorialising the nation’s fallen soldiers. However, concerns with costs and growing popular unrest in the post-war period meant that its plans for commemorating the battle failed to eventuate. The first official monument to the wars to be completed, the Marble Arch, was not constructed until 1828 and was designed principally as a ceremonial gateway to Buckingham palace in honour of King George IV.

This ‘Waterloo’ jug is an example of how the battle was nonetheless spontaneously commemorated in everyday British life. Produced in 1815 in Staffordshire, and currently held at the Victoria and Albert Museum, the jug is an early version of prattware, a form of porcelain in which a coloured relief decoration was painted underneath a glaze.

The image shows a British light cavalry soldier leaping over a French artillery piece while attacking the scattered crew with his sabre. While the nationalism of the scene is curiously muted, and the cavalryman’s blue uniform resembles that of Dutch or Prussian cavalry who fought alongside the British at Waterloo, the scene captures the excitement and decisiveness of allied victory.

Commemorating the battle through depiction of a common soldier and in an everyday item, the jug reflects a cultural memory of the Napoleonic Wars as a people’s war rather than a dynastic conflict of the eighteenth century.